According to John Weir Perry, 'when a true spiritual awakening or transformation is underway, one usually encounters the emotional experiences and accompanying images of death and the annihilation of the world itself'.(127)
Therefore, it would seem to me, an experience involving such encounters is probably the inevitable and ulitmate path towards spiritual enlightenment, and one who has not traveled along it is still awaiting a transformation.
Mr. Perry, however, would disagree. According to him, one undergoes such a process, which he calls the 'renewal process' and associates with brief psychotic episodes, only when there is an imperative need for the individual to break free from old value systems, emotional patterns, assumptions about the nature of the world or cultural forms etc, and this need is being resisted.(128-129)
Perry argues that when this process of breaking free is not undertaken 'voluntarily' by the individual, 'with knowledge of the goal and considerable effort', the conscious personality is overwhelmed by the psyche and its own powerful processes.(129)
In response to this rather undynamic view of the dynamics of the psyche and soma, I would like to point out what a shame it is indeed for those who lack the 'trials' or other fiendish elements which may be resisted, surrendered to and ultimately used to demonstrate grace, the grace, perhaps, in following what necessity dictates, for it is surely those 'lacking' individuals who are submerged in unconsciousness.
I would agree with Perry's view that the treatment received by an individual in a state of 'psychosis' or altered state of consciousness has a profound effect on them, such that, like a magic mirror, if the experience is treated as a disease, it appears as one.
However, I believe that his argument for the individual's role (or lack thereof) in the origin of their own experience is flawed. This is because what he is essentially arguing is that, on the one hand, through hard, conscious struggle (and presumably objectivity) a person may actually anticipate the 'renewal process' and therefore avoid it altogether, and that on the other hand, and by the same argument, it is a lack of vision which leads one to be overwhelmed by unconscious forces (exactly where a 'visionary mind' comes from and what it may have to do with personal volition seems to be a mystery to Perry).
Overall, this rather transcendentalist and ascetic argument seems to be at odds with his view that death, disorder and destruction must be embraced on a journey of self-transformation, but it does tie in well with his abhorrently patriachal, elitist and Western-centric view of mythology which, for me, was the biggest disappointment of all in reading this book.
I would not recommend it to anyone.